Party faithful hit Minnesota caucuses
ST. PAUL - Two state representatives appeared poised to move away from other Republican governor candidates and a pair of well-known Democrats were battling for bragging rights Tuesday night as Minnesotans attending more than 8,000 neighborhood meetings began picking their favorites.
Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall led Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano in a GOP precinct caucus gubernatorial straw poll. With 63 percent of the precincts counted, Seifert had 52 percent to Emmer's 37 percent in unofficial results; five other candidates and write-ins took the rest of the votes.
The situation was not as clear on the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party side, although Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis each had about 20 percent of the governor vote with 66 percent of precincts in.
In the field of 11 Democrats, state Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia and state Sen. John Marty of Roseville were just short of 10 percent. Former state Rep. Matt Entenza of St. Paul, state Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook and state Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis were slightly behind Rukavina and Marty.
About 15 percent of Democrats were not committed to a candidate.
The straw polls are not binding and complete results were not expected until early today.
Seifert was pleased with early results and said it appeared to make the Republican contest a two-man race. The Marshall Republican was doing well in the rural western areas, and said he needed to hold his own in the Twin Cities.
To Seifert, the straw poll was very important.
"The reality is, these are the folks who will now pick the candidate on April 30," Seifert said. "The reality is this is the new electorate."
On the DFL side, Rybak and Kelliher were being cautious, both Minneapolis politicians touting their support outside the Twin Cities.
"It shows that people are connecting with us in every corner of Minnesota, from Duluth to Hutchinson to Minnetonka to Eagan," Rybak said.
Kelliher said her campaign staff and volunteers reported that she, Bakk and Rukavina were doing well in rural areas, but did not know if Tuesday's poll would narrow the field.
"I think everybody is pretty committed to this competitive race," she added.
Another state representative also was happy, although he was not finishing first.
"I said all along I had a good feeling in my gut I would do good in this election," Rukavina said, as he remained in the second tier of candidates, in the third or fourth position, most of the night.
Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton asked that his name not be on the caucus straw poll ballot, saying he thinks the public voting in a primary election should determine a party's nominee.
Straw poll results
Incomplete, unofficial results from precinct caucus straw polls, as reported by the Minnesota secretary of state's office:
(2,879 of 4,129 precincts reporting)
Tom Bakk, 1,161, 6.31 percent
Matt Entenza, 1,260, 6.85 percent
Susan Gaertner, 377, 2.05 percent
Steve Kelley, 737, 4.01 percent
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, 3,709, 20.17 percent
John Marty, 1,818, 9.89 percent
Felix Montez, 16, 0.09 percent
Tom Rukavina, 1,409, 7.66 percent
R.T. Rybak, 3,843, 20.9 percent
Ole Savior, 18, 0.1 percent
Paul Thissen, 1,383, 7.52 percent
Uncommitted, 2,659, 14.46 percent
(Mark Dayton asked not to be on ballot)
(2,783 of 4,129 precincts reporting)
Robert Carney, 20, 0.15 percent
Leslie Davis, 82, 0.61 percent
Tom Emmer, 5,098, 37.63 percent
Bill Haas, 246, 1.82 percent
David Hann, 743, 5.48 percent
Philip Herwig, 133, 0.98 percent
Marty Seifert, 6,982, 51.54 percent
Write-ins, 243, 1.79 percent
(0 of 8 precincts reporting)
Robert Hahn, 000, 00.0 percent
Tom Horner, 000, 00.0 percent
Joe Repya, 000, 00.0 percent
Other, 000, 00.0 percent
(Party also is holding an online poll through Feb. 28.)